Julius Honka THW Close-Up:
Date of birth: 1995-December 3rd
Hometown: Jyaskyla, Finland
Ht:5’11” Wt: 175 lbs
NHL Draft Eligibility: 2014 1st year eligible
Is the NHL ready for another Finnish Flash?
When Julius Honka arrived in the WHL from Finland, Swift Current coach Mark Lamb knew he had a really good player on his hands. Honka didn’t disappoint as he got off to a great start, showing no signs of needing any adjustment to North America and ended the campaign with an impressive 16 goals and 56 points.
“He didn’t have to adjust too much at all,” Lamb said of his star defenseman. “He came over here, had a great attitude and I think that’s the biggest reason why there wasn’t too much of an adjustment. He wants to be a player, he’s just a very coachable kid that started playing right off in exhibition and right up til the end.”
His excellent skating, big league shot and hockey IQ led him to break out early, scoring 11 goals in the season’s first two months. That got everyone’s attention as Honka found himself at the top of the WHL’s defenseman scoring leader board, and on NHL draft boards. Honka is a puck-moving, offensively-minded defenseman and plays on the Bronco’s power play. You might automatically assume that a defenseman who ended the year with 40 assists would be the quarterback on the power play. Lamb says he can certainly do that, but with his high-end shot, he can also be a weapon firing the puck.
“He’s one of our quarterbacks,” Lamb says of Honka on the power play. “Really he’s more of a shooter on our power play than the quarterback, but he can do both.”
If you look at Honka’s season split you notice that his goal production tailed off after his hot start. He only scored five goals in the last four months of the season and added 19 assists. Did the league figure out a way to stop him? Is this a concern?
“No concern at all,” Lamb says. “He sure didn’t sneak up on anybody after the first two months for sure. He was circled on every other coaches pre-game speech, they were really paying attention to him. He adapted well to that and started using his teammates more when they were really keying in on him.”
At only 5’11” tall and 175 pounds, Honka is not an imposing figure on the blue line. Lamb points to his outstanding hockey sense and anticipation to point out that he can play in his own end. Honka ended the season with a plus-10 and when you watch him play you will quickly see that he is not afraid to hit and plays aggressively at both ends of the ice. Honka has the potential to be a top-flight offensive defenseman in the NHL and should easily be in someone’s top four pairings.
“I think he’s a can’t miss guy,” his coach says of him. “He’s small in stature but there are guys (like that) who play and of all the guys I’ve seen he can do as much or more than anybody that I’ve seen.”
Where He’ll Land in June:
Honka is ranked right in the middle of the first round on most draft sites pre-draft rankings. You have to speculate that the only reason he is that low is due to his smaller stature, because the kid can play and is exciting to watch night in and night out. Lamb praises his compete level and potential leadership in the dressing room — things that NHL scouts like in prospects. Honka is a lock to be selected in the first round and if his size does cause him to sink then some team will be getting a steal.
“Julius Honka is a slippery and dynamic defenseman that uses his awareness of the ice to keep himself a step ahead of opposing players. You will rarely see Honka getting beat to a loose puck in his own zone, and his elusiveness when under duress allows him to seamlessly transition the puck up ice. He is always a threat when he has the puck because he makes quick decisions that almost always lead to chances for his team. Honka can quarterback a power play as he has elite level poise and his comfort level with the puck is well beyond his years. He also plays the game with astute positioning despite his forward thinking style. Honka needs to get a little bit harder to play against in his own zone as he can at times be a liability in front of the net because of his lack of size and hostility. While Honka lacks the natural length that many look for in an NHL defenseman, he has the required skill level and versatility to be an impact rearguard at the next level.” – Zenon Herasymiuk – Future Considerations
“I think his offensive game is outstanding. That’s one of his strengths, his skating, on his edges and on the forecheck, he can really leave guys. He can really shake a forecheck, and the biggest thing, he’s got an extra gear where he can really rush the puck. His hockey sense and his shot are extremely good too. Play in his own end is fine because his anticipation is excellent. He can really read plays and he’s a tough player. He’s really aggressive, he’s not afraid to hit. He’s a smaller player, everyone thinks it’s a deficiency, but the way he skates and the way he anticipates I think it’s one of his strengths.” – Mark Lamb – Swift Current Broncos Head Coach/General Manager
Risk = 1/5 Reward = 4/5
Offensive defenseman who will score from the blue line.
- Compete level
Flaws/Aspects He Needs To Work On:
NHL Player(s) Comparison:
THW’s The Next Ones prospect profile template design architect:Chris Ralph
Andrew writes about the WHL and NHL Draft Prospects. He also covers the Seattle Thunderbirds for 710 ESPN Seattle and spent two years with Sportsnet. Follow him on Twitter @andyeide.